Government funding for Kilkenny’s roads has been slashed by an unprecedented €7.5 million, prompting serious concerns from county council members and inviting the possibility that the local authorities will have to draw up an emergency revised budget.
Among the casualties are the pavement overlay scheme, which receives no funding for the first time in 25 years; cuts to routine drainage and repairs for non-national roads; and of most concern – the winter maintenance budget has been reduced by more than half.
In total, state grants have been reduced from €17.7 million last year to €10.2 million this year. Some of the reason behind the reduction arises from the completion of the Motorway Schemes, but the cuts to national secondary funds are a symptom of the depleted NRA pot.
The restoration improvement grant has been cut by over €800,000, restoration maintenance by almost €300,000, while the allocation for bridge inspections is less than 17% of what it was last year. Perhaps, most worryingly, the winter maintenance grant has been cut from almost €239,000 to less than €88,000.
This is a substantial blow for the local authorities. In recent times, the council has made considerable investment in machinery and equipment for winter maintenance – machinery that may well now not be used despite the need for it.
“The impact is that there may be difficulty towards the end of the year in salting and gritting regional and local roads,” said director of services John Mulholland.
“We have plenty of salt; this is an operational issue.”
The result now is that, unless the council is allowed to change how the money has been allocated, it may have to redistribute its own cash from elsewhere. County manager Joe Crockett warned of the consequences if there was no flexibility from Dublin.
“The cuts are very deep – deeper than expected,” he told the members.
“We have made a strong case for flexibility. If we don’t get flexibility, we will have to come back and revise the overall council budget.”
Cllr Cora Long (FF) said she was deeply concerned by the figures.
“This is the most worrying document I have seen in my time on this council,” she said.
“As chairman of the Piltown Electoral Area, I can say we have had a lot of problems with flooding in the south. All of the councillors in the area were actually hoping there would be extra funding, not less. If we can’t maintain the roads even as they are, where are we going to be in two or three years?”
Each electoral area will convene in the coming weeks to agree local roadwork programmes.